Iraqi civilians reported killed in U.S. strike

Military says 11 killed in helicopter attack on bomb cell

October 24, 2007|By Doug Smith | Doug Smith,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Baghdad -- A U.S. airstrike left at least 11 dead in a village in northern Iraq yesterday, heightening an Iraqi backlash over the civilian toll of American military actions.

The military said in a statement that a helicopter fired on a group of men believed to be a cell that places roadside bombs. The men then took refuge in a nearby house and continued to engage U.S. troops, the military said.

The statement said 11 Iraqis were killed, including a militant known to be a member of a bomb cell.

Residents in the village of Mukaisheefa, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, contested the military account, saying that 15 people were killed and that the men were farmers irrigating their fields in the pre-daylight hours.

Abdul Wahab Ahmed, a neighbor, said the dead included two toddlers and four teenagers. Five were women, he said.

Ahmed said two of the three farmers were killed in the field, and a third, who was injured, went back to the village of several dozen houses. As neighbors gathered around the man's house, jets made two bombing runs, Ahmed said.

A member of the Iraqi parliament who has previously criticized U.S. military tactics said yesterday's attack was further evidence of the misuse of air power against terrorists.

"That has been repeated many times," said Mahmoud Othman, who spoke out in parliament Monday for restrictions on the American forces. "They may kill some terrorists, but they kill innocent people with them."

The debate Monday followed a U.S. raid Sunday on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad in which Iraqi officials said 13 civilians were killed. The U.S. military said that the strike in Sadr City killed 49 "criminals" and that it was unaware of any civilian casualties.

The statement released by the military after yesterday's fighting dealt elliptically with the question of civilian casualties. While characterizing one of the dead as a militant, it described four others as "military-age males." It said the group included "suspected IED [roadside bomb] emplacers," but did not say how many.

Ahmed, the village resident, said the helicopter opened fire on three men who were working on their farm about two miles from the highway that passes near the village between the cities of Samarra and Tikrit, too far to have been planting a bomb on the route.

Maj. Margaret Kageleiry, a U.S. military's spokeswoman for northern Iraq, declined to provide further detail. The military statement said the engagement was under review.

Elsewhere yesterday, four people were killed in a battle with gunmen who attacked a patrol, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said. Two of the dead were police officers.

Four bodies, apparent victims of execution, were found in the capital.

Doug Smith writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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